Music in the Commedia

Dante had a keen sense of the role of music in spiritual life.  Music is not heard in Inferno, implying that music was a form of blessing, grace and prayer.   Still, soundscapes by composer Christopher Preissing will illuminate the range of emotions and dramatic actions of Inferno.  In Purgatorio, by contrast,  Dante painstakingly lists all the liturgical chants he hears as he travels the mountain and its terraces under a shimmering cloud of night sounds.  He lists them all by name, including Marian antiphons,chants from the propers and ordinary of the mass, hymns, psalms, and the litany of the saints. For example, the psalm In exitu Israel is cited by Dante in Purgatorio. The Purgatorial shimmer is a created soundscape by Christopher Preissing.

Music director Carmen-Helena Téllez and Notre Dame Vocale have selected several among the Gregorian chants to perform alongside other historical repertoire, to indicate, as Professor Vittorio Montemaggi explains, that in Purgatorio we reflect on  our experiences on earth and pray singing for salvation to come.

In Paradiso we hear sounds we have never heard before, in the form of new composition in the form of a cantata for solo voices, chorus and instruments by award–winning composer Robert Kyr.  The warm sonorities will surround the audience from every direction.  After having spoken and prayed throughout Inferno and Purgatorio, Dante will finally sing, as he experiences a form of transfiguration and renewal.

Robert Kyr’s Paradiso  was recorded by Carmen-Helena Téllez, Notre Dame Vocale and all participating soloists, immediately after the premiere. It is now available through Albany Records.